Do we lack Patriotic Leaders in Ghana?

Tue, 8 Jan 2013 Source: Sakyi, Kwesi Atta

By Kwesi Atta Sakyi

4th January 2012

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the former charismatic President of the United States, who was assassinated in 1963, some 50 years ago, was said to have observed, and I paraphrase, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’ I think since the ouster of Nkrumah in 1966, we have lacked patriotic leadership in Ghana. J.J. Rawlings came to power in a military coup d’état in 1979, and again in 1981. But by the time he was leaving office, after 19 years, his initial zeal for patriotism had metamorphosed and transformed into the zeal of a capitalist or petty bourgeoisie.

It is alleged that he had acquired property rights in the State Transport Corporation (STC), and Nsawam Cannery for his wife. President Kufour left office in 2008, after eight years of rule and he did no better, as he also dabbled in hotel properties for his children in a scandal dubbed, Hotel Waawaa. It seems to me that since the time of Kwame Nkrumah, we have had no good precedent of leadership in Ghana. Who is a good leader? A good leader is one who leaves office not as a pauper, but one who is a good steward of state assets, and one who uses them to improve the lives of the masses.

He is a selfless leader who serves the interest of the masses. I think we need a new attitude and mindset to leadership in Ghana. Our current crop of MPs and Politicians have become so much obsessed with material gain, so much so that they will move heaven and earth to win elections so that they can use political power to loot state resources, to feather their nests and provide largesse to their immediate acquaintances and relatives. I think this pathetic state of affairs should change for the better. This is why our leaders should declare their assets before and after assuming office. They need a new leadership code, as well as proper oversight and close monitoring and surveillance by their parliamentary whips, security agents, journalists and their constituents and party apparatchiki.

I remember one iconic Prime Minister in India in the 60s called Lal Bahadur Shastri, second PM of India (1964-1966), who when he passed away while in office, it was found that he had only a few rupees in his bank account. The conditions of service in Ghana have been made very generous and lucrative for our leaders, so it is expected that they should concentrate on discharging their duties to the people, without cutting corners or dabbling in shady deals and businesses not connected with their offices.

While in office, Nkrumah had spent all his faculties in serving the nation. This kind of sterling and selfless leadership is what we lack in Ghana now. Our current crop of leaders have become property-grabbing leaders. During the time of Nkrumah, he set up the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute (KNII) in Winneba, my home town, where he sent his Ministers and MPs for political orientation in good leadership and statesmanship. I guess there were heavy doses of socialism and communism. I will humbly like to suggest to our new President, President John Dramani Mahama, to set a new tone for leadership in Ghana by his example.

If need be, he should send all the MPs, Ministers and government appointees to the University of Ghana, Legon, or GIMPA to have a crash programme on leadership, patriotism, ethics, national development, probity and accountability, among others. If invited, I will like to lecture them on these topics, since I have been teaching on those topics for decades now, and I think I am well versed in a lot of topics bordering on Political Science, Economics, Management, Ethics, Good Governance, among others. I will also recommend to the Speaker of Parliament to supervise our MPs to read some philosophical works, such as those by Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Confucius, Kant, Wittgenstein, Lakatos, Hume, Karl Marx, Diderot, Voltaire, J.J. Rousseau, John Locke, Popper, among others.

The MPs should be tested on those philosophies which they read up on, and those who fail the exams should be given punishment by doing some press ups or community service, or doing some clean up at Nima, or cleaning up the debris in the Korle Lagoon! J.J. Rawlings showed us a bit of patriotic zeal, when in the halcyon revolutionary days of the 80s, he went into the bush with zealots to cart cocoa, our main cash crop export, which was marooned in the bush. At another time, he flew in a helicopter to rescue and bring an injured person to Accra for treatment. Yet at another time, he joined engineers to fix some part of our railway track, which was damaged. He was once shown on national TV, instructing some revolutionary cadres and padres how to fire the gun. Some heroic and revolutionary acts, borne out of patriotic fervour!

It will be instructive for our leaders also to read some biographies and autobiographies of great leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Dr Mahathir Mohamed of Malaysia, Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi, among others. Right now, I am told a lot of good developmental efforts are being made in the tiny country of Rwanda, where President Paul Kagame is in charge, in a no-sense fashion. At one time or another, a country needs a missionary and messianic leader. The Israelites had their Moses and Joshua. India had Mahatma Gandhi, China had Chairman Mao, Singapore had Lee Kuan Yew, Malaysia had Mahathir Mohammed. Of course, there could be some dictatorial tendencies there. Why cannot our leaders in Ghana, the lodestar of Africa, live up to expectation? It is said that to whom much is given, much is expected (Cui multum datum). Welcome, President John Dramani Mahama. Akwaaba ooooo!

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Columnist: Sakyi, Kwesi Atta